Our attraction to distraction

I’m no sociologist, just the average entrepreneurial single mom with a penchant for all things technical (even my men, I <3 g33ks) but it seems to me we've become a society that loves distraction. The more "mobile" and "digitally" centered we become the shorter our attention span.

It was bad enough when the microwave became a household appliance and we grew impatient with it's apparent inability to cook our food fast enough (we got our first microwave oven in my family when I was a teenager in the late 70's). We used it sometimes but it took us a long time to get to the point where we took for granted the speed of this new kitchen appliance. I was an adult with children the first time I uttered, "damn, this is taking too long" on a 3 minute tv dinner.

As a child, my fondest memories are related to leisurely days and long stretches of time with nothing to do. Maybe it's just the nature of being a child, but how many kids do you know that actually have "nothing" to do. Our kids have iPods, computers, mp3 players, cellphones and various other electronic tools (like the LeapPad) to keep them occupied. Even Elmo and Cookie Monster have gone digital, tickle me Elmo anyone? Since when do kids need to be force fed what is fun/funny? I had more fun as a little girl creating a silly recording with my brothers on our little 4 track tape recorder and playing it back. This usually resulted in hooting and howling and laughing so hard our tummies hurt and then getting busted for staying up past our bedtime (again). How can innovation thrive if our kids aren't allowed to be creative with their playtime? If our kids (and ourselves) are constantly distracted by other people and other things, can we be authentic to ourselves and the future of our country? How can we innovate if we get interrupted all the time? That's what I want to know.

Don't get me wrong, I love my crackberry and I feed my kids thanks to my web related skill set. I am just as guilty as the next guy/gal when it comes to getting frustrated when the network is slow or my kids are on you tube and I can't get a file to download fast enough.

As much as we protest about all the "gadgets" we possess we still reach for more and how many of us really look at what we are missing out on with our eyes glued to our iPods and Crackberry's?

'What do you want to do?'
'I don't know what do YOU want to do?'
'I don't know what do You want to do?'
and so forth and so on. As much as we hated that we always came up with something we really wanted to do. I was one of those weird girls who liked to put on shows for the neighbors. Magic Show anyone? how about a Muscular Dystrophy carnival (which consisted of a lemonade stand and small child's pool filled with rubber duckies). That was just plain fun and creative and interesting and didn't need a power supply or batteries!

I can remember the smell of fresh bread when I came home at the end of the school day and a plate of cookies sitting on the counter. My mom loved to bake. No hurry really. We'd sit down at the kitchen table to have our after school snack and then do our homework. Homework was a 2-3 hour ordeal even in grade school (yeah I hated homework just like everybody else) and then we got to watch tv. We made eye contact with our parents or we would get asked if we were on drugs. We loved to read and read our books from cover to cover without cliff notes. We ran around outside with our friends, often times getting told on by another parent when we misbehaved. We played highly creative, imaginative games like "Bird Family" or "Swiss Family Robinson" (don't ask, if you can't 'imagine' it you'll never understand).

I find it interesting that we've reached a point where our "gadgets" are becoming more important to us than flesh and blood. Standing in line at the grocery store 20 years ago (when my kids were little) I'd strike up a conversation with some other mom, "aww, your baby girl has beautiful hair", and then we'd talk face-to-face while we waited. Now standing in line at the grocery store, I don't speak up nor do I assume because someone is speaking that they are speaking to me. Keeping mum to save the embarrassment of the person you were responding pointing to a thing sticking out of their ear and shrugging you off.

Sad, isn't it?

I hope that today, you'll put down your cellphone or lappie or whatever keeps your attention (including twitter people) and call your mom or take your kids for a walk. Hug them, hold them and listen attentively to what they have to say. You'd be surprised just how much you are missing!

My beagle needs a nice long walk around the block. Gonna grab my girls and go. I'll see you later!